South East Wales

Mother of teenager killed on wet valleys road 'to sue'

Jade Emanuel and Rhiannon Davies
Image caption The teenagers were flung from the vehicle when it hit water on the road and spun out of control

The mother of a teenager killed on a wet valleys road is considering pursuing legal action over the crash.

An inquest ruled that water on the A465 Heads of the Valleys road was the main cause of the accident which killed Rhiannon Davies, 18, and Jade Emanuel, 17, in 2008.

Jade's mother, Lisa Emanuel, now plans to sue the South Wales Trunk Roads Agency (SWTRA).

The agency has expressed sympathy to the girls' families.

It came under scrutiny during the inquest as it has responsibility for maintaining and improving the A465.

The inquest in Aberdare, Rhondda Cynon Taf, was told ditches which should have drained water away from the road were blocked. The coroner recorded a narrative verdict.

He said: "Water was overtopping the ditch because drainage pipe work leading from a concrete apron had become blocked, and the ditch itself had become silted up, so that the flow of water through the pipe work and/or alternatively westwards through the drainage system was impeded.

"Loss of control of the Rover motor car in which Rhiannon and Jade were travelling occurred when the car encountered the wide flowing stream of water. The main cause of the loss of control and subsequent collision was the presence of the water on that carriageway."

Best friends Rhiannon, from Treherbert, and Jade, from the neighbouring village of Blaencwm, died when their car span out of control between Hirwaun and Merthyr Tydfil during heavy rain on Saturday, 29 March 2008.

Speaking after the inquest, Ms Emanuel said she was pleased with the narrative verdict and felt Jade and Rhiannon had got the justice they deserved.

But she said the state of the roads was an "accident waiting to happen".

She said: "Unfortunately it took a fatal accident which resulted in my daughter Jade and Rhiannon losing their lives to get the SWTRA to act on the problems at this accident hotspot.

"Those actions came too late to save Jade and Rhiannon - I am very, very angry at this."

The family's lawyer, Mick Antoniw, confirmed they were pursuing a civil action and said the evidence thrown up by the coroner in his verdict was "compelling".

Image caption The crash happened between Hirwaun and Merthyr

He said: "It will be a legal action almost certainly against the SWTRA. I think the Welsh Assembly Government has got to carry out an investigation into the way in which the agency is operating and how we can have failures of the extent that have been highlighted in this inquest.

"I think there will be very many questions about those operations, the way maintenance is carried out and the way hazards are dealt with to avoid future loss of life."

A spokesman for the SWTRA said: "First and foremost, we would like to express our sympathy to the parents, family and friends of Rhiannon Davies and Jade Emanuel.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further until we have had an opportunity to study the coroner's findings in detail and consider any recommendations he makes."

The Welsh Assembly Government also refrained from making any comment.

'Distressing evidence'

The family of Rhiannon Davies issued a statement through their lawyer John Coughlan, but refused to comment on any legal action.

They said: "In the last few days the family has heard some very distressing evidence about the condition of the Heads of the Valleys road on the day of the accident and about the systems of maintenance and inspection. The coroner's comments speak for themselves.

"Although we know that won't bring Jade and Rhiannon back, if their deaths can help to save other families from a loss like ours then some good will have been done."

The inquest heard that since 2008 work has been done to the ditch and drains and water is no longer a problem there.

The coroner said he will write to the South Wales Trunk Road Agency on the issue of communication which appeared to be lacking between those on the ground and those in charge, and to encourage the regular monitoring of this area in adverse weather conditions.

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